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Time has passed since Elaine did, but we remember

The send off Elaine wanted... a traditional Quaker funeral with loved ones around and the sun shining on her beloved Malvern

It seems so long since we said goodbye to Elaine, and yet her music lives on. I always feel that her pieces were like her children.

After she died Will wrote the following:

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our founding composer, Elaine Hugh-Jones, who has died on 29th March 2021 peacefully in her sleep at the age of 93.

Elaine was born in London in 1927. Her parents soon separated, and she grew up by the Solway Firth, near Carlisle, but overcame a difficult upbringing (at one time living in a barn behind her grandparent's house), to enjoy a busy career as a pianist, composer and teacher. Her keyboard training was with Dr. F. W. Wadeley, Harold Craxton and Julius Isserlis. In the post-war years, Elaine was an official accompanist for radio and television programmes with the BBC, work which she combined with teaching at Derby High School, where she was appointed Director of Music in 1949.

From 1956 to 1983, she continued her radio (and latterly, television) work for the BBC in Birmingham whilst teaching at Kidderminster High School from 1955, and from 1963 at Malvern Girls' College and then at Malvern College. She accompanied many of the stars who featured on the lunchtime BBC TV programme, Pebble Mill, through the 1970s - 80s.

Elaine Hugh-Jones developed her work as a composer mostly between 1980-2011. The emphasis of her creativity was mostly in vocal and choral music, although there are a number of instrumental pieces, as well as songs with instrumental accompaniments. Much of her work has been broadcast by the BBC radio networks. She received lessons in composition from Lennox Berkeley and orchestration from John Joubert.

The tenor and Swingle Singer John Potter was instrumental in promoting Elaine’s songs introducing them to soprano, Dr Jane Manning, who performed her songs in recital and on BBC Radio 3. Jane Manning includes Elaine's songs in her two books on contemporary song repertoire: New Vocal Repertory and Vocal Repertoire for the 21st Century.

Elaine’s first cycle of songs, Eight Songs of Walter de la Mare was written over a period of 21 years up to 1989. The cycle has been broadcast several times on BBC Radio 3. Further cycles have followed including Songs of War, settings Wilfred Owen poems, and Strange Journey, settings of poems by Edward Thomas. Other notable song collections include Six Songs of RS Thomas and A Cornford Cycle - settings of Edwardian poet, Frances Cornford.

Elaine’s songs have been championed by a range of musical organisations. Four of Elaine’s songs were performed in the 2013 English Song Weekend at Ludlow by soprano Elizabeth Watts and pianist Iain Burnside. Elaine’s songs have also received performances at Celebrating English Song, Tardebigge, where her Songs of War and world premiere of High Flight were recently included in a concert by James Gilchrist and Anna Tilbrook. The Welsh College of Music and Drama gave a concert consisting entirely of her music in December 1995 and gave a performance of her Christmas anthem, Torches in 2013. The University of Bangor also featured her music in a major concert in 2012.

Elaine’s music is included in the archives of Welsh music in the Welsh National Library, Aberystwyth and is also held at part of Sound and Music UK, the national agency for new music.

Elaine Hugh-Jones songs have been performed in recital by Roderick Williams, Elizabeth Watts, James Gilchrist and Diana Moore. In 2015 her songs made their Royal Opera House debut, performed in a lunchtime concert by mezzo-soprano, Fiona Kimm with David Cyrus at the piano. Her songs are finding an increasing audience, as singers become aware of her unique talents in setting poetry to music. She was particularly drawn to 20th century poets including Edward Thomas, Wilfred Owen and Walter de la Mare, but has also composed settings of Shakespeare and American 19th century poets. In 2011 Elaine added settings of poems by A E Housman and to her list of works, one of which was performed at the most recent Ludlow English Song Weekend in 2019.

Also in 2019, Erika Mädi-Jones (soprano) and Panaretos Kyriatzidis (pianist) featured a number of Elaine’s songs in a performance as part of the London Song Festival, devised by Nigel Foster.

In 2021, Pianist Ian Burnside, a great supporter of Elaine's works, encouraged the Welsh College of Music and Drama to include a number her songs in a recent performance, Forgotten Voices for International Women's Day 2021 with masterclasses led by mezzo-soprano, Kitty Whateley.

Elaine sustained a wide circle of friends and loved her dogs, garden and collection of vivid flowers, especially Amaryllis.

I am going to leave you with the words of Carl Sandburg in his poem 'Stars, Songs, Faces', set as part of 'Four American Songs':

Gather the stars if you wish it so,

Gather the songs and keep them.

Gather the faces of women,

Gather for keeping years and years,

And then...

Open your hands, let go and say 'Goodbye,'

Let the stars and songs go,

Let the faces and years go,

Loosen your hands and say 'Goodbye'.

Or as Elaine was fond of saying in memory of an unwilling student of hers 'Don't lets'.... these songs deserve to be heard, to be sung, to be played and they will be remembered.

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